Since the holiday season is upon us and it’s that time of year to “make merry,” I am hoping this month we might follow in the footsteps of the various writers, poets, artists and students in this chapter and create our own interpretations — whether serious, touching, tongue in cheek or downright outrageous– of Hopper’s painting “Nighthawks”. In Chap 7 of Barrett’s Interpreting Art we get to read an interesting short story by Ann Beattie based on Hopper’s painting “Cape Cod Evening”, a poem by Joyce Carol Oates inspired by “Nighthawks”, and an excerpt from a short book of critical prose by Mark Strand, a poet laureate of the United States, who responds to the structure of Hopper’s paintings and writes about how that structure ought to affect their meaning.
Please observe Hopper’s painting and interpret it in any way you choose in any medium, from song lyrics to poetry to critical prose. In short, anything goes. Post the results as a comment. I’m sure that in order to interpret this painting we will have to very closely observe and respond to the various elements in it. What questions does the painting raise in our minds, what clues does it offer us as glimpses into the lives of these figures. What medium will we choose as our response — a poem, a song, a short story, an art history based essay? I hope this will be an enjoyable creative exercise in which we can develop a closer relationship with Hopper’s work.
One of the most important points that Barrett makes in this chapter is that we can interpret more than paintings and in more ways than through an academic or art history lens. He illustrates this by giving examples of a variety of interpretations, including those of objects selected from popular contemporary culture such as a performance art video, cartoons, “bad words” and a Rolling Stone magazine cover. These examples illustrate that there are a variety of types of interpretation in addition to those from an art history perspective. The final sentence of the chapter summarizes Barrett’s intention in presenting the various types of interpretation and subject matter; the chapter “was written to broaden the scope of both intepreters and objects to be interpreted and to encourage us to move thoughtfuly through arts museums and spaces of daily living in a meaningful manner, that is, interpretively.”
Contributed by Jeanne Beck